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close this bookBoiling Point No. 12 - April 1987 (ITDG Boiling Point, 1987)
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Report on Prospects for the Urban & Industrial Uses of Charcoal in Malawi

By S. L Keiley, Enterprise Development Inc USA. June 1985, 63 pp.

This paper investigates the potential for the large scale, commercial production of charcoal in Malawi, based on his experience with the Charlanka Co. in Sri Lanka. The report does not say who paid for the investigation but it is mainly related to the need for 'fuel supplies for the larger industries operating or planned in Malawi mainly non Malawi based companies such as Portland Cement.

The report is interesting because although it supports the development of more efficient charcoal cooking stoves, it reveals the many undesirable social effects which would result from its recommendations:

- Loss of livelihood for many thousands of traditional village charcoal makers who would not be allowed to continue and would be unable to find other work except for a few who might get jobs in the company.

The real cost of charcoal would be increased by the large distances through which the wood and charcoal would need to be transported, first to the kilns and then to consumers, by lorry, train or ship, probably using imported fuel.

As it is proposed to double the price of charcoal once the monopoly is established, the rural poor will have no access to cheap charcoal.

The beneficiaries will be the government through increased royalties and the charcoal companies profits. The poor urban population would probably be unable to afford charcoal fuel for cooking.

The report admits that the traditional mound kiln systems can be made much more efficient but instead of suggesting this should be done, say they would be prohibited. Such improvements could improve the charcoal workers income and save wood without loss of livelihood and could produce cheater and better charcoal.